Sunday April 14th, 2024 11:15AM

Two University of North Georgia alumnae earn inaugural award

By Logan Landers Anchor/Reporter

University of North Georgia alumnae Nataly Morales Villa and Melissa Silva have earned one of six inaugural Gilman Alumni Changemaker Awards.

The Gilman Scholarship funds alumni up to $10,000 to create positive change in their local communities.

The grant will support Morales Villa and Silva's work in helping explain the home ownership process to local Hispanic and immigrant communities.

They will also create educational content in Spanish, collaborate with Hispanic-serving organizations and host informational seminars.

At UNG, Silva earned a degree in modern languages with a concentration in Spanish language and literature.  

Morales Villa was a McNair scholar at UNG while earning a degree in political science, and she earned a Gilman Scholarship to study in Peru.

Both graduated from UNG in 2019. 

The alumnae decided to seek the award thanks in part to their involvement in the housing industry, Silva as a mortgage loan officer and Morales Villa as a real estate agent.

"Nataly and Melissa's project will be a boon for the wider Gainesville community," Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of Academic Affairs and director of the Nationally Competitive Scholarships office, said. "I plan to continue learning from their community-centered leadership as we move forward with Dr. Shannon's big bets vision for constructing a leadership foundry. They are truly inspirational members of our community."  

Another part of the inspiration for seeking the Gilman Alumni Changemaker Award was Morales Villa's own childhood.  

"I still remember when my parents bought their first home. The entire process was extremely confusing because of the language barrier," Morales Villa said. "I had to interpret for them as an 11-year-old. We want parents to feel comfortable asking us questions directly in their language."

The pair recently held a bilingual first-time homebuyer seminar with the Gainesville Housing Authority and they plan to continue to work with other housing groups in the local area.

In February 2024, they will host a homebuying social with the UNG Alumni Association. 

"UNG opened so many doors not just professionally, but also personally, for us," Morales Villa said. "We are proud UNG alumni. We are thankful for the opportunities Dr. Lin has helped us find. It's a full-circle moment to be able to give back to the community that has supported me as a first-generation college student."

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: wdun, ung, Gainesville , University of North Georgia, Nataly Morales Villa, Melissa Silva, Gilman Alumni Changemaker Awards
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